It was the scarf that did it. The pilot's scarf from the 924th Tactical Fighter Group at Bergstrom ( Texas) Air Force Base, of which I'm an honorary member.
But I've gotten ahead of myself. This tale started when I picked up another honorary title, that of honorary coach of the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks football team in its 1983 Lone Star Conference football game against the Angelo State Rams. This was a no-joke honor that was bestowed on me because, frankly, I'm a friend of the coach, Jim Hess, as well as a student of the game. I was to be allowed to call three offensive plays. Coach Hess tried to change that to one offensive play and two defensive plays. I carefully explained to him that I knew about as much about calling defensive plays as a pig knows about ice skating. So he'd given in, and I had my three offensive calls.
The Lone Star Conference usually has between 35 to 40 alumni playing pro football. We're talking Harvey Martin, out of East Texas State, and Wilbert Montgomery of Abilene Christian, who has done a pretty fair job for the Eagles. Then there's Clayton Weishuhn, who used to play at Angelo State and is a very good linebacker with the Patriots. And let's not forget Washington kicker Mark Mosley who was the MVP of the NFL in 1982. He played at Stephen F. Austin, which is where Bum Phillips, now coach of the Saints, was an all-conference lineman.
Many of the players in the Lone Star Conference were heavily recruited by the major powers, teams such as Texas, Penn State, Oklahoma and Nebraska. They just chose to stay down home, to play smaller college ball.
Coach Hess called one night in the spring of '83 and asked if I'd like to come down and be the Lumberjacks' honorary coach for the Angelo game. As a player and as a writer I'd seen a lot of honorary coaches. They mostly walked around in three-piece suits and the day before the game were allowed to give a stimulating speech that generally concluded with, "You can do it, men!"
So I declined. "Listen," I said, "I'm 46 years old, but I still think of myself as a jock. So if I come down there to coach I'm going to coach."
Coach Hess disarmed me by saying, "O.K., we can use the help."
"I'm talking about calling plays," I said.